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The Maltese Falcon
Crime, Drama, Thriller, Mystery, Film-Noir
IMDB rating:
John Huston
Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade
Mary Astor as Brigid O'Shaughnessy
Gladys George as Iva Archer
Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo
Barton MacLane as Det. Lt. Dundy
Lee Patrick as Effie Perine
Sydney Greenstreet as Kasper Gutman
Ward Bond as Det. Tom Polhaus
Jerome Cowan as Miles Archer
Elisha Cook Jr. as Wilmer Cook
James Burke as Luke
Murray Alper as Frank Richman
Storyline: Spade and Archer is the name of a San Francisco detective agency. That's for Sam Spade and Miles Archer. The two men are partners, but Sam doesn't like Miles much. A knockout, who goes by the name of Miss Wanderly, walks into their office; and by that night everything's changed. Miles is dead. And so is a man named Floyd Thursby. It seems Miss Wanderly is surrounded by dangerous men. There's Joel Cairo, who uses gardenia-scented calling cards. There's Kasper Gutman, with his enormous girth and feigned civility. Her only hope of protection comes from Sam, who is suspected by the police of one or the other murder. More murders are yet to come, and it will all be because of these dangerous men -- and their lust for a statuette of a bird: the Maltese Falcon.
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The Maltese Falcon
I make no secret of the fact that 1941 holds a three-way tie for my favorite cinematic year. I laugh when people complain that Citizen Kane was "robbed" of the Best Picture Oscar in a year that produced such classics as SUllivan's Travels, How Green Was My Valley (a film that was more than deserving of winning top prize), and The Maltese Falcon. John Huston, son of the great Walter Huston had never before made a film when he began his feature, The Maltese Falcon. Starring Humphrey Bogart, who I also make no secret of absolutely adoring, the story follows the pursuit of a priceless statue by a band of criminals and a private eye. Bogart and Huston would collaborate multiple times throughout their careers, always seeming to attempt to capitalize on the magic they made in The Maltese Falcon. It's incredible when a first-time director can make a film as good as The Maltese Falcon, which must go down as one of the best debuts of all time.

Working as a private eye in a San Fransico detective agency, Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) and his partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) are approached by a woman who calls herself Miss Wonderly (Mary Astor). Spade and Archer who have always shared a tempestuous relationship argue over how to handle the case, when Archer insists on providing the protection Miss Wonderly has requested. Things change pretty quickly as Archer is killed the night he is protecting Miss Wonderly, along with another man, and Spade quickly finds himself in the middle of an international mystery. It is soon revealed that Miss Wonderly is surrounded by dangerous people, all of whom Spade soon gets the chance to meet. Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) is a man after a mysterious take who uses scents to incapacitate his victims. She also has Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet) on her heels, a man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants ann under the guise of feigned civility. The only one seemingly able to provide her some protection is Sam Spade who has now been implicated in the murder of Archer or Floyd Thursby, the man that was also killed the same night at Archer. Finding the Maltese Falcon the criminals are hunting for may be the only way for Spade to help himself, or anyone else.

Huston, a novice director made a brilliant decision to film a good deal of action over the shoulder of Bogart's shoulder. Allowing the audience to see a majority of the action from the point of view of the protagonist was an exceptionally innovative way to keep the audience engaged. Huston Not that innovative camera work is needed to keep one engaged during a Humphrey Bogart film. He truly was one of the best actors in the history of cinema to grace the screens. Peter Lorre, a consistently strong supporting actor, was also an absolute joy to watch. The symmetry achieved by Huston, especially in shots framing Humphrey Bogart, reveal an early expertise present in the filmmaker. an exceptional cast helmed by an excellent leading man Humphrey Bogart, a more than apt director, and a plot based on the work of the wonderful Dashiell Hammett produced an American classic that still persists nearly 80 years after its release.
Maltese Falcon (1941
Sam Spade and Miles Archer are private investigators who reside in San Francisco. They are hired by Ruth Wonderly to her find her sister, who has runaway. Wonderly wants to meet the man she believes her sister is mixed up with, Floyd Thusby.

After the investigators meet with Wonderly; Archer and Thursby are killed and Wonderly has checked out of her hotel room. As the film progresses, you learn Wonderly's real name is Brigid O'Shaughnessy. After she confesses her real name, Spade then agrees to take on her case.

This movie definitely did not turn out the way I expected. There are many twist and turns in this film. I thought it was going to turn out to be your normal love story where the boy gets the girl, but that definitely did not happen.
Film Lovers Study This Movie
This is by far my favorite American film noirs of the 30s/40s. And kind of light on the "noir" aspect at that, as agreed my many. But in narrative and style, it is definitely dark. Based off of a Dashiell Hammett short-story, this is the account of a surly private-eye, who stumbles onto circumstance and characters he really doesn't need in his life. The camera use, lighting (and lack thereof) are all supremely done in this film. Sydney Greenstreet is forever evil this story, and makes his "Ferrari" character in Casablanca look like a small-time street thug. There are really no characters with redeeming qualities in this film. For a while you might think Spade's secretary is above the scam, but in the narrative, she really ends up getting in on the action and following the boss's orders. Peter Lorre, like Greenstreet, is evil, too, and like many of his rolls as an unsavory type, you still might find yourself cheering him on. You will find new elements in the film each time you watch it, and if you're a real buff for the hard- boiled pulp of the era, watch it soon for your first time, then start it all over again, and identify what you missed the first time!
Jewel encrusted
Whenever I see this film I am always impressed with how good the story is.

These days we are used to brilliant crime/mystery series and movies on TV and cable, but back in its day "The Maltese Falcon" was head and shoulders over just about every film in the genre, which often had unbelievable stories and lightweight characters.

It not only had that great story, but crackling dialogue and a perfect cast. From Bogart as Sam Spade, Mary Astor as Brigid O'Shaughnessy to Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet as Joel Cairo and Kaspar Gutman, the cast almost seemed divinely inspired.

When I finally read the book, I discovered that the great story and that crackling dialogue is in there: "When you're slapped, you'll take it and like it…", "I distrust a man who says when…", and all the others, they were author Dashiell Hammett's all along.

But what director John Huston and the cast did was to bring the characters alive; they gave them shadings beyond Hammett's words. The film added to the book. That isn't always the case. How often has the indefinable magic in a book failed to come through in the film? But in this case the film added the magic.

Although Hammett came up with the plot and just about every word we hear spoken, it's hard not to picture Bogart as Sam Spade even when Hammett describes him as a blonde Satan.

No, something unique happened on that film, it was Huston's first directing job and he just laid out the pages, edited them a bit, and shot the whole thing pretty much in sequence – and he sharpened the ending.

In his impressively researched "The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre", author Stephen D. Youngkin tells how Lorre regarded this as the most enjoyable filmmaking experience of his career. Huston created a family atmosphere among the cast and crew. That wasn't necessarily the atmosphere Huston always created – Ray Bradbury on "Moby Dick" probably didn't think so – but this was his first film as director and there was no shortage of enthusiasm.

Although the film is nearly 80-years old, the story and the characters are so strong you soon forget that there isn't a smartphone or computer in sight. I love Bogart's tough, cynical Sam Spade, he's seen it all, but he is not without empathy.

In fact it's those characteristics that are the secret to all the truly successful PI's and cops in movies and on TV ever since.
The Mystical Narrator
Spoilers herein.

There are films which shuffle the vocabulary of past films, and then there are the few films which add to that vocabulary. This is one such, and all the more remarkable because it was Huston's first.

His vision was shocking and established a new genre. The conventional filmmaking skills are pretty poor on this. The photography is soso, the editing poor, the women's acting atrocious. But the manipulation of the narrative in this way was new to film.

Until this point in Hollywood product, the camera was the surrogate of the theater audience-goer. You could trust it. The convention was that you (the camera) would know more than the characters you see. And everything would make sense.

Here, some new things are introduced:

-- the world is against the characters; everyone's life is bleak; no happy ending is in sight

Many people think this defines noir. (Later, the photography would be bleak as well.) but there is another innovation here:

-- the world is against you the viewer to the same extent as the characters. You get no special breaks.

This was a big deal. The same year, Orson Welles would break the position of the camera. No longer would it be bound to where a human would be naturally placed. But here, the very soul of the viewer was compromised: you are swept up in the rules of the created world.

That created world itself wasn't so novel to the book writers, but the notion of a mystery gave a special scaffold. The whole game there is to establish a detective in the world. Then there is a game among you, the detective and the author to see who can outguess whom. It was a great invention in narrative.

Here, you still have three players, all trying to trick one another, but the author gets in the first trick -- declaring that you do not have the safety of your seat, your perspective, your own world: you have to live in the created world, the same as Spade.

The Malta business was built into the book to add some notion of the ancient supernatural as an excuse to disrupt the reader. They got it all historically wrong (they meant the Knights Templar, the same folks who hid Indiana Jones' ark), and in any case glossed over that element in the translation from book to film.

I think Huston was smart enough to know what he was doing. I don't think the actors were. Fortunately, Bogart was effectively mean. But for my money Sidney Greenstreet is the genius here. He is the one around whom this noir world is created, so with Huston can be considered the co-inventors of the genre.

As with Huston, this was Greenstreet's first film. Imagine that.
A Statuette To Die For
"The Maltese Falcon" is the unforgettable, groundbreaking crime drama which is regarded by many as the first film noir of the classic period. Its significance in Hollywood history is enormous as it provided John Huston with his directorial debut and Humphrey Bogart with the role which made him into a major star. Huston's screenplay famously remained very faithful to the style of dialogue used in Dashiell Hammett's book and in so doing provided some wonderfully economic and incisive lines, particularly for Bogart's character.

Bogart's role also had a broader significance because as Sam Spade, he brought to the screen a new type of hard boiled detective who was destined to become the template for a whole succession of others who would appear in numerous films noirs particularly in the 1940s and 1950s. These men would be morally ambiguous , fast talking tough guys who had a cynical attitude to the world and who lived by their own set of principles.

Sam Spade is no one's idea of nice guy. He keeps his emotions armour plated and when his business partner is suddenly murdered shows no concern of any sort. He had also been having an affair with his partner's wife but in his dealings with her, he also seems rather cold and offhand. Despite these characteristics and his obviously jaundiced attitude to life and people, his character is redeemed to some extent by a subtle quality which Bogart's innate charisma brings to the part.

In "The Maltese Falcon" Spade is hired by a Miss Wonderley (Mary Astor) to find her sister. This job leads to the death of his partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) and shortly after, to the murder of the alleged seducer of Miss Wonderley's sister. Miss Wonderley then contacts Spade and tells him that her real name is Brigid O'Shaughnessy and that the story about her sister had been as false as the name she'd given him and she then pays him to find out who was responsible for the two murders.

Spade's subsequent investigations bring him into contact with Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre), the "Fat Man" Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet) and his henchman Wilmer (Elisha Cook Jnr.) and it becomes apparent that they are all on a ruthless quest to locate the priceless statuette called "The Maltese Falcon". Furthermore, he discovers that O'Shaughnessy's earlier subterfuge had been linked to the fact that she also had been trying to find the "Falcon". Spade eventually identifies the murderer and informs the police who go on to arrest the culprit.

Brigid O'Shaughnessy had acted naive, timid and vulnerable when she had first encountered Spade but his natural scepticism prevented him from being taken in by her. Joel Cairo was a small, nervy, effeminate man and Wlmer was generally a silent presence during Spade's conversations with the "Fat Man". Gutman was sophisticated, good humoured and friendly on the surface but was also extremely dangerous and untrustworthy. He also delivers some amusing and eccentric lines such as when speaking to Spade he says "Now Sir, we'll talk if you like and I'll tell you right out that I'm a man who likes talking to a man that likes to talk".

Bogart and Huston worked well together and went on to collaborate on other major successes such as "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (1948), "Key Largo" (1948) and "The African Queen" (1951). "The Maltese Falcon" was also a great box office success, was well received by the critics and was also nominated for Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Sydney Greenstreet) and Best Adapted Screenplay (John Huston).
"I Won't Play The Sap For You."
The Maltese Falcon has a totally atypical Hollywood history. After two previous filmings of Dashiell Hammett's novel, the third time a classic film was achieved. Usually the original is best and the remakes are the inferior product.

These characters that John Huston wrote and breathed life into with his direction are so vital and alive even 65 years after the premiere of The Maltese Falcon. You can watch this one fifty times and still be entertained by it.

I'm not sure how the code let this one slip through. Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade is partners with Jerome Cowan in a detective agency Spade and Archer. Client Mary Astor comes into their office requesting help in getting rid of a man who's intruding in on her life. Jerome Cowan as Miles Archer eagerly takes the assignment and gets himself bumped off for his troubles.

Cowan is quite the skirt chaser and he certainly isn't the first or the last man to think with his hormones. That's OK because Bogart's been fooling around with his wife, Gladys George. That gives the police, Barton MacLane and Ward Bond, motive enough to suspect Bogart might have had a hand in Cowan's death.

As fans of The Maltese Falcon are well aware, there's quite a bit more to the story than that. Bogart's investigation leads him to a crew of adventurous crooks, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Elisha Cook, Jr. who are in pursuit of a statue of a Falcon that is said to be encrusted in gold and precious jewels.

The Maltese Falcon is a milestone film role for Humphrey Bogart. It is the first time that Bogey was ever first billed in an A picture while he was at Warner Brothers. In fact this is also John Huston's first film as a director. He had previously just been a screenwriter and in fact got an Oscar nomination for the screenplay he wrote here. There are some who will argue that this first film is Huston's best work and I'd be hard up to dispute that.

After a long career on stage The Maltese Falcon was the screen debut of Sydney Greenstreet. Greenstreet may be orally flatulent here, but there's no doubt to the menace he exudes while he's on screen. Greenstreet got an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, but lost to Donald Crisp for How Green Was My Valley. Greenstreet created quite a gallery of characters for the next ten years, mostly for Warner Brothers.

A favorite character of mine in The Maltese Falcon has always been Lee Patrick as Effie, the secretary at Spade&Archer. She's loyal, efficient and crushing out on Bogey big time. This and the part of Mrs. Topper in the television series Topper are Lee Patrick's career roles. I never watch The Maltese Falcon without hoping that Bogey will recognize how really "precious" Effie is.

The Maltese Falcon will be entertaining people hundreds of years from now. And please no more remakes of this one.
I remember looking at my movies list for class and seeing The Maltese Falcon and I got excited. I remember watching this in my Detective Fiction class in high school and loving it. I couldn't wait to watch it again. After watch Casablanca and seeing what a great job Humphrey Bogart did he did in that film, he killed it with the Maltese Falcon. Although Casablanca came out a year later he did an exceptional job. These types of old movies are my favorite. Old mysteries where the main character is some type of detective and tries to solve cases are the best. I try and follow along and solve everything myself. I would watch this movie over and over again and I have come to really like Humphrey Bogart and his work.
The Maltese Falcon, right off the bat, has very interesting technical elements. It has great compositions in its shots, it seems very balanced and clean, which is very different from many of the older movies I have seen before. Everything in the movie seems remarkably composed and tidy. The transitions between scenes are noticeable but not so noticeable that they become jarring and the editing seems well done. The long shots that they did--especially the very first one on the phone--is really interesting and feels new. It also has some amazing photographic moments, notably the scene between Mister Spade and the widow where the light is shining through the blinds onto the wall The acting and character seem so-so to me, though I believe a lot of the reason I have decided that I dislike it is not because of the quality of the acting itself and more that I was not very interested in the movie itself. Over all so-so, but great technically.
It's all right
I felt like I'd seen 'The Maltese Falcon' before, probably because as these things go it's pretty standard. A few dry quips, rapid fallings-in-love, double crosses, and characters pinging from hotel room to hotel room explaining the plot to each other while with every round of exposition it becomes less and less clear who did what to whom and why.

I mean, it's fine but nothing special. It's worth watching for Humphrey Bogart, who is, as always, a magnetic screen presence, not the greatest actor in the world but a proper Movie Star. The highlight of the film for me, however, is the performance of Sydney Greenstreet, with his entertaining line in affable menace and a squeaky giggle that really tickled me.

Solid stuff but nothing that really grabbed me.
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